Mental Health and Lighting Control

Over the last 18 months social interaction has changed in a way one would have thought to be impossible before “COVID” became an everyday word, and this of course has a toll on everyone, one way or another. Technology somehow mitigated the effect of these changes, just think how different the pandemic (or the way we dealt with it) would have been without Zoom®, WhatsApp® or Amazon®…not to mention Internet or mobile phones. On a general note, technology has had our backs from a social point of view, but social is not the only element playing a role in our mental health.

Lockdowns all over the world led to some people not being able to leave their homes for months. People in the UK were only allowed to exercise outside for an hour every day and back in my motherland, Spain, needing to buy groceries was almost the only excuse to get out of the house. Whatever the restrictions, there was also a generalised sense of panic added to bad weather and long winter days for some, which altogether meant many people were not seeing any natural light for days and sometimes even weeks.

Although there have already been many warning of the impact that lighting has on a person’s mood and stress levels – mental health in essence – the situation we’ve been living with and in for the last 15 months has increased general awareness. Light affects us, and this is no longer a reality that we can avoid or take lightly.

Human centric lighting has lately claimed the position in design and architectural terms that it should have always had. We were only starting to get used to it in some commercial projects (mainly offices) and high-end residential developments when it suddenly (and thankfully) now has become a must in all sort of developments and hotels, restaurants, office blocks and even hospitals/care homes are actively searching for and embracing these solutions and technology.

There are however two “applications” of human-centric lighting I’m particularly fond of, with which I was not familiar only 18 months ago, and which we (Zennio) have successfully implemented in some projects across the world.

Light affects us, and this is no longer a reality that we can avoid or take lightly.

The first one, the most shocking and particular for me, was requested to be installed in The Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre in Nottinghamshire (UK); to produce smooth colour transitions using RGB LEDs to assist PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients. The fact that something I find that simple to achieve (LED colour control) can help with such a serious disease amazes me and thrills me with the possibilities that this technology has for so many other applications.

The second one is generally referred to as “circadian light”, and means the colour temperature of the controlled light emulates that of the natural light, producing a sunrise to sunset effect. This of course has a more general use, and is therefore used in many different projects, residential and commercial seamlessly. I can only think how different lockdown would have been in my London basement flat if I was able to psychologically enjoy the sense of sunrise and the changing light of the day when I physically could not.

With all the harm and suffering the COVID pandemic has caused, we can all think of some good things that have come out of it and I would say a bigger concern on mental health and how we should take care of it daily is definitely one of them. The fact that lighting can and does play such an active part in our daily lives and that applying this technology is a simple and extremely effective way of helping support healthy mental health and healthy living, working and recreational environments is an extremely important and positive outcome.

Javier Aguirre holds a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Technologies Engineering and a Master in Financial Management and has committed his entire professional career to the building automation industry. He joined Zennio in 2019 with the mission to support the UK market and is currently one of Zennio’s UK branch directors.